Today, on the second day of Navaratri, I pay homage to Bhuvaneshvari, Supreme Goddess of the universe. I invoke the mystical mantra ह्रीं (Hreem) which is her Bija Mantra.
How can a music blogger not acknowledge the power of sounds? Vedic thinking says that sounds have inherent strength and meaning, irrespective of the person who utters them. Mantras are such sacred sounds, with the power to transform, to shape, to influence. Mantras can be long or short, a detailed recital of qualities, a prayer, a plea, or a simple syllable. The most important are called Bija Mantras (Seed Mantras) which are just single-syllable immensely powerful sounds which exert their influence through sound vibrations. This idea is not limited to Hindu thought. The Christians believe that ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’. That Word, that sound, we Hindus call Om. Who doesn’t know the power of the Bija Mantra ॐ (Om), also called the Pranava, which is the Bija Mantra for the supreme Brahman, the formless Supreme Being.
The other important Bija Mantras are those of Shakti, whom we worship during these days of Navaratri. Dr. David Frawley says ‘Shakti Bija Mantras carry the great forces of Nature such as the energies of the Sun and Moon, electricity and magnetism, not simply as outer factors but as inner potentials of Divine light, love and wisdom. Shakti mantras hold, resonate, and propel the Kundalini force, the higher evolutionary power of consciousness, to flow within us’. For further information, read this.
The Mantra ह्रीं (Hreem) is the prime mantra of the Great Goddess and invokes all her powers. This is associated with Solar energy and the power of illumination (real and metaphoric). It awakens our soul and connects us with the Divine. It has the power of removing mental illusions and makes us open to wisdom and truth.
To invoke this Mantra, I present a song written by the Maestro Balamurali Krishna in a raga of his making, Lavangi. This raga is especially interesting because there are only four notes used (see footnote). The composition is small but powerful, just like a Bija Mantra. In the anupallavi, he refers to the Goddess as the form of Hreem(हृन्कार रूपिणी).
ओमकार आकारिणी मदहंकार वारिणी अवतुमां
हुंकार मात्र शत्रु दमनी हृन्कार रूपिणी रुद्राणी
मुरली सुधा लहरि विहारी
पुररिपु प्रेमित त्रिपुर सुन्दरी
करुणा रस भरित ललित लवङ्गी
वरदा अभयदा सकल शुभाङ्गी
For transliterated lyrics, see here.
Listen to the Maestro singing his own composition below. It is amazing what he can do with only four notes!
For those who have fallen in love with this song, here is a finer recording by the Maestro himself :
Footnote (Raga) :
The scales of Raga Lavangi are as follows :
Aarohanam: S R1 M1 D1 S’
Avarohanam: S’ D1 M1 R1 S
Lavangi is a janya raga, derived from Kanakangi (see below), 1st on the Melakarta scale.
There is an interesting lecture-demo in English on this song by Prince Rama Varma. He also sings the chittaswarams which I had not heard before.
Note : The 12 notes in the octave are named as below. Please note that C is used as Sa for the sake of simplicity as the scale is relative in Carnatic Music. Also note that the scales paint only a superficial picture of the raga as the gamakas(ornamentations) are a very important part of a raga.